Thursday, November 27, 2008

Together at Last

On Saturday morning our onboard email message indicator illuminated. Everyone aboard the Adamo gathered round in hopes it was from Loon with their position. As it turned out, it was from them and they were anchored in a bay 4 miles from us. Without further ado, we cranked up Bessie and motored to Anse Mitan. As we rounded the corner Ian and Tracy spotted us and a call came of the VHF: “ADAMO, ADAMO . . . LOON”.

We anchored next to them and invited them over. We celebrated aboard the Adamo with mimosas and lots of stories and laughs. Ian and Tracy had a horrible experience with laying their boat up for hurricane season in Antigua. They hired the same guy we used to bottom paint the Adamo there last April. They paid him $100 up front and $50 per month to check on the boat in the yard. All he had to do was make sure everything looked fine on the boat and report any problems back to them.

He didn’t check on the boat once. When they returned from England the bilges were underwater due to all the heavy rain from several hurricanes (boats are not really water proof, just water-resistant). The batteries were all flooded and the boat was a mess from all that standing water in it. Fortunately, they had a contract with him and held his feet to the fire. He replaced all the batteries and helped clean out he bilges. What a hassle.

Dominica Delayed

................Diamond Rock, Martinique

On Friday November 21, the crew prepared to depart Martinique for Dominica. After a last minute trip to the grocery store, topping off on water and clearing out at customs we were ready to go. Susan was in the Internet cafĂ© checking e-mail when we got the news that our friends Ian and Tracy on S/V Loon, had just arrived in Martinique. We had originally planned to see them in Dominica, but now it looks like we’ll be staying on a little longer here.

Loon’s email did not specify what part of the island they were at. We guessed that they sailed to the lee side of the island despite the fact that there are several anchorages on the windward side as well. We headed 20 miles East then North to Grand Anse d’Arlet hoping that they would be heading South so we can rendezvous in the middle somewhere.

On the short sail to our new anchorage, a small tear developed in our headsail. We’ll either have to change the sail out to a smaller spare, or repair the one with the rip. That will all depend on the weather. If it’s raining out, it will have to be a replacement because it’s not possible to do the repair if the sail is wet. It’s 8:00am on Saturday and drizzling. Things don’t look promising for the repair.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Martinique - Captain's View

......Phil taking advantage of calm conditions in the anchorage

On Monday November 10th, we departed the Grenadines heading for Dominica. I had received a call from the company I was going to interview with. They wanted me in Antigua on November 17. Our goal was to make it to Guadeloupe by the 16th and then take a ferry to Antigua from there.

With an 11 knot wind from the East, the day started out calm as we sailed North at 6mph. At that rate, it was going to take us 32 hours to get to our destination. As day turned into night, we had already passed St. Vincent and were closing in on St. Lucia. From afar, St. Lucia is a distinctive island with its two pointed mountains, the Pitons, at the Southern end. This is where parts of the movie Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed.

We continued on in the night. A full moon made the nighttime passage easier lighting up the sky so much that it appeared to be dawn all through the night. A squall was developing behind us and was catching up. The wind died and we dropped the sails and began motoring. We were able to outrun the squall, but the wind never really picked up again. I was optimistic and raised the main sail anyway. At 3:00am we were at the North end of St. Lucia and decided to tuck into Martinique because another squall was developing to the Northeast of us. This one we could not out run.

As it approached the moon was hanging low and bright to our West. The storm to the East was dumping rain and the moonlight was refracting off the rain. It was our first moonlight rainbow. It was beautiful but eerie. Muted red, yellow, blue and purple were set in front of a pitch black background as the storm clouds absorbed all of the light below. We were heading right into the darkness.

A sudden 10-degree drop in temperature forewarned us that the wind was about to begin. I dropped the sail while Sue took the helm and motored into the storm. The wind howled. The rain blue sideways, but the waves remained calm. Once we had passed through the front, the center of the storm was calm but rainy. By 7:00 am we were pulling into Martinique. We anchored up, fixed breakfast and hit the hay.

After our naps, we motored into Le Marin to clear customs. We were all surprised at the number of sailboats in the harbor. It rivaled Trinidad, but they were all in the water. We decided to stay in Le Marin until after my interviews. I didn't want to risk being forced to sail, even if the conditions were not conducive.

We have spent our time here exploring the area. Phil and I motored the dinghy into the small rivers in the mangroves. Sue was excited by the large discount grocery store right on the water. Susan and I both liked the wine prices: a good bottle of French red wine 2 Euros ($3 US)! We plan on loading up the bilges with French wine for the remainder of the trip. On second though, I don't think the boat is large enough for that.

As the week progressed, I started to get a strange stomachache. Saturday morning I woke up with a 103.2-degree fever. I was thinking appendicitis; all the pain was on the right side. In a French country, getting sick on a weekend is not a good idea. Everything is closed. Phones don't take coins. You have to have a prepaid phone card. You can't even call a taxi. We spoke with someone a customs. "You should go to Fort de France to the hospital." We asked if they could call a taxi. "Non". So we were back to walking around looking for a way to call a taxi. As we wandered around, we found a big blue sign with a capital "H" in the middle of it. Unbelievable! There was a hospital about 60 yards from the Marina. You would have thought the custom's person might have pointed that one out.

......The hospital is the big white building behind the boats
......The customs' office is the pink building on the water

We waited in the non-air-conditioned hospital for a doctor for about 2 hours. Everything was in French. My medical-French is not quite up to par, but somehow the doctors managed to understand so 30 minutes later I was admitted. The doctor agreed it could be appendicitis. After an ultrasound and blood tests it was determined that my appendix was fine. The doctor wanted to keep me there overnight. In the states, if you want to leave a hospital with out being property discharged, they keep you there by threatening not to file insurance for you. But here we were going to pay cash. I asked for the bill.

The staff looked at me like I was nuts. (Maybe I used the word that means "check", like after a good meal in a restaurant). In any case by 5:00pm no "check". Phil and I walked out of the hospital room, down the steps, and out the front door. The guy at the check in counter asked if we were leaving. I responded, "yes, we'll be back in the morning to pay and get the final results of the blood tests." Sue lingered behind. She did not want to be seen with me breaking out of the hospital. I had the same feeling as back in Trinidad during the fuel crisis. I refuse to be held against my will!

In the end, I got a prescription for antibiotics and pain pills. The hospital bill: 73 Euros ($97 US) including: doctor's time, extensive urine and blood tests, ultra sound, IV, pain medication, room, and lunch which, believe it or not, was not bad. Had I known it was going to be that cheap, I might have stayed for dinner as well.

For the next two days the fever was gone. But I was sweating buckets. Whatever I had was still hanging on. Monday I flew to Antigua and had a great night sleep in the hotel. By Tuesday, I felt like myself again. Just in time for seven interviews from 9:30am until 6:00pm. That evening, I started having pain in my back and arms. It felt like a knot in my back. Could be tension, so I went to bed. By midnight I was up and could no longer ignore the pain. I just wandered around in circles until the taxi came to pick me up at 4:00am for the airport. When I finally got back to the boat, Susan checked the internet for Dengue Fever, also known as "Breakbone Fever" due to the extreme joint and muscle pain. My symptoms matched the disease precisely, including the lull during the day I had my interviews. It's a mosquito born illness and is endemic throughout the Caribbean. At least we know what it is. You can get a test done after the fact to confirm that is what you had. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but by now I'm on the up tick and feeling much better.

So it's on to Dominica from here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tobago Cays and Union Island - Phil's View

In the Tobago cays we swam in a turtle zone. Dad had told me that he almost rode a turtle when he was a kid. So I was determined that I was going to ride one today. I got in the water and saw a turtle. I swam over him and grabbed on to his back. I rode for at lest 50 yards. I was so excited I went to the beach to tell Dad all about it. We then went to see Dad try to ride a turtle. We found a huge turtle about 3 to 4 feet across, but the turtle was smart. He let Dad hold on to him rather than tow him around. So I dove down and pet him while Dad was holding him. Mom watched us as we did this, she was laughing so hard that water was leaking into her mask. By the time we left I had rode about 10 turtles.

Tobago Cays at Sunrise

Iguana crawling out as the sun comes up

The Captain searching for Iguanas

Happy Island Bar -Union Island

Union Island Market

Clifton Town Center

Disaster Averted

It’s a five-minute motor from the idyllic Sandy Island to Carriacou’s main town of Hillsborough. The small settlement has an inordinately large about of neighborhood-style grocery stores reminiscent of the ones you see in the smaller islands in the Bahamas. They are stocked with a hodge-podge of items, many of which have collected quite a bit of dust and have astronomical prices (a roll of Bounty paper towel $13 EC, $5 US, ouch). The streets are lined with vendors in fruit stands trying to eke-out a living by selling fruits and veggies grown in their back yards. It’s a tough way to make money when your competition surrounds you on all sides and the Caribbean sun is mercilessly beating down on you all day long. Non-the-less, the welcoming and friendliness of the locals is ever-present here as it was throughout Grenada. After a small amount of provisioning we cleared out of the country and made our way to Union Island to clear into Saint Vincent.

For the past few days we have been island hopping among the Grenadines. The distance between islands is very close, so you can motor from one island to the next in a matter of minutes. We had just spent two days snorkeling and swimming at Mayreau Island. Phil, the lobster king, caught four of the delectable little creatures. Having cleared out the lobster, we decided to motor over to the Tobago Cays. There is a narrow passage between two reefs, which gives you a direct shot there. We fired up Bessie (our Perkins engine), raised anchor and motored towards the passage. Phil was our spotter and was positioned 15 feet up the mast on the ratlines. As we entered the opening in the reef the depth went down to 10 feet, then 9. The depth alarm was going off. Phil couldn’t tell where the channel was. Bessie was in neutral, but the momentum of the boat kept us moving forward. Phil was shouting “Port! No Starboard! No! I can’t tell the rocks are moving.” There were large stingrays that looked like rocks that began to move as the Adamo approached them. I didn’t like the situation and decided to abort. I shifted Bessie in reverse and . . . NOTHING. The engine was on but the prop didn’t turn. We had lost the transmission at possibly the worst time conceivable. The depth went to 8, then 7 while the incessant alarm kept blaring. Fortunately the wind was on the nose. As the Adamo slowed I turn to Starboard and the wind brought the bow around. We managed to turn on a dime. Sue said: “I think I’m going to puke” as she pulled out the headsail to give us power and steerageway.

We had one shot to anchor. Phil was on the bow ready to release the windlass and drop the anchor, Sue was manning the headsail, I was watching the depth and looking for a sandy spot with good holding. My brain was racing. What could be wrong with the transmission, or was it the prop, maybe a linking cable? There are no parts to be had here. I was sailing to Martinique in my mind wondering how will we be able to get into port without and engine. By the way, the propeller on the dinghy is spun, meaning we can’t use it to push us into port and no Mercury props to be found in these parts. (things always seam to happen in tandem).

We sailed over a sandy area, dropped anchor and dowsed the sail. I dove in to make sure the anchor was not going to drag and check the prop. Everything below the waterline checked out clear.

Off to the engine room. As I lifted the floorboard, the sun shined in and lit-up the bilge and the transmission. It took a split second to diagnose the problem. Lying in the bilge was the key that transfers the power from the transmission coupling to the prop shaft. Right next to it was the broken hose clamp that keeps it in place.
I lined up the shaft and the coupling, put the key back in and attached a new hose clamp. We were back in business. Tobago Cays here we come, however, this time we took the long way around the reef.

Talk about an emotional roller coaster ride. From everything is cool to oh-no, to oh-crap, to no-problem, to everything is cool in under 30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Grenada is Great

We love Grenada. It has the most wonderful friendly people and is an exceptionally beautiful island. Everywhere you go, people are welcoming and gracious, even the kids.

Susan and I were walking to the post office to mail in Phillip’s home school test to Calvert School, when the local high school let out. The streets were full of teenagers in school uniforms; skirts for the girls, and shirt and ties for the boys. I was flabbergasted at how well behaved the kids were as they walked home. There was no horseplay, no shouting, and no running. They were all perfect ladies and gentlemen. I turned to Sue and asked: “I wonder what they do with these kids to get them to act like that.” Last year in St. Thomas, we were in a taxi that actually hurried past the school to avoid the potential mayhem.

After about a week in Grenada, we continued North to Carriacou. Carriacou is part of Grenada, but is situated in the Grenadines. I’ll let the pictures below tell the story of what a day is like in Sandy Island. For a few days the Adamo was the only boat in the anchorage. (hit page refresh if 5 pictures of Sandy Island don't pop up on your screen. I think I've loaded to many photos)

Pelicans at dawn

Mid-morning rainbow

Mid-day and the sun is beating down on Caribbean-blue water.

In the afternoon, the Adamo is surrounded by schools of juvenile king mackerel. This picture was taken through the glass bottom in the aft part of the Adamo, the one that Phil uses to checkout the fishing conditions whenever we enter a new anchorage.

Tranquil evening sunset

We can’t go long without Phil providing dinner. On the journey from Grenada to Carriacou he caught a large yellow tail snapper at Diamond Rock, followed by a 10 lbs black fin tuna off the coast of Carriacou and fresh conch at Sandy Island. Throw in sweet-apples, oranges and limes he collected on our morning walks through the mountainous forests and he’s been quite the provider!

One of the great things about cruising is meeting other cruisers and hearing their stories. We met Dan and Sandra Mead on Mariposa who have just finished a 5-year circumnavigation. Their tales were mesmerizing. Phil’s ready to go around the world.

They partially funded their trip by carving calabash and selling them in St. Thomas. The funny thing is Phil found one floating in the water last year that ended up being one of their designs (small world). They think this will be their last year of calabashing it, so they asked me to photo document their work for the book they want to write.